We are told that dreams are important. That we must go after them and make them a reality. And we applaud at people who have made their childhood dream their profession or their exploit.
But what when it can’t be done ?
Yesterday, I spent the day with my friend Julien, who is an astrophysicist and a data scientist and a fencing comrade.
He also is a wise man with a great heart and I though he could help me with a terrible impression that I have been having : betraying my childhood dream.
My childhood dream was to be a knight of the Round Table.
Before you laugh (because, yes, I’m aware the profession of knight -especially of the Round Table- is pretty much extinct nowadays), let me tell you a bit more.
For me, the figure of the knight (or jedi) was a symbol of courage, purity of heart, dedication to a cause… But also of physical strength and excellence. And the knight is so CLASSY, so jaw-droppingly impressive and sexy. ^_^
It’s because of this knighthood dream that I joined our HEMA club (historical European Martial Arts, that is, historical fencing) ten years ago. It’s also because of this dream that I started doing medieval reenactment.
And… truth to be told, there is much about this dream that is no longer (or even never was) me.
I am not very good at fencing. And I’m not interested in doing competition. And to be honest, I’m not even interested in being « good » at fighting. I’m in the club because I love the people and I want to take care of my body, become more stable and more flexible and more grounded.
But « fighting » is not my jam.
And I don’t like horse-riding.
And I have a terrible (lack of) sense of direction (useful when you are on a quest in the forest).
And camping without a tent in a wood without any warm water to wash is something that I avoid doing at all costs.
I have a rather delicate body. I get injured easily. I tire faster than my fencing colleagues. Bruises on my skin last for weeks and I bruise at the slightest shock. I have chronic back pain and many unexplained muscular tensions. Because of that, my balance is not great and my stability is rather poor. I don’t make for a good fighter.
I’m never gonna be a knight in this regard.
And yesterday, unwinding all this, I felt like I was betraying my young self, that ten years old girl who was as awestruck by the grace and power of knights as young Percival was when he met knights for the first time in Wales in Chrétien de Troyes’ romance.
I started crying on Julien’s shoulder as I told him all I’ve just told you. I felt like I was wasting and misusing my potential.
And I felt terrible looking at some of my fencing friend who have a stainless steel body, the ability to dance weightless on the gymnasium parquet, their sword light as a feather, tireless, hardly noticing the bruises and the sore muscles, blissfully intoxicated with the pleasure of fencing.
Because that’s not me.
That’s where Julien started talking.
When we are kids, he said, we don’t know ourselves. We don’t know who we truly are, what’s important for us. It’s normal, we are so young. We just see shiny armors and and the surface of things. Society tells us we can and we MUST do anything we want : becoming an astronaut, a plane pilot, a ballet dancer. And growing up we bear the weight of these expectations that don’t take the reality of our life into account.
What if we become sick and have to stay in a hopital for two years instead of studying ?
What if we find that the profession we desired so much is actually a pit of snakes ?
What if we have unsufficiently good eyesight to pilot the plane or if we fail at the tests in spite of our absolute best efforts ?
Do we need to shame ourselves and think that we are worthless ?
Some dreams are not the ones that will make us happy and keeping pursuing them in spite of who we are and what our real aspirations are is hurtful. Society tells us to dream big, but no one tells us to dream true.
We shouldn’t need a phd, a certficate or a gold medal to know our worth. Many people are worthy and outstanding who also are unseen and don’t do anything our yourger self would label as « fancy ».
« You are not betraying yourself », he concluded.
And deep down, under the layers of internalized expectations, I knew it was true.
When a dream you held so dear comes in contradiction with the truth of who you are, it’s time to let it go.
Or maybe reframe and rephrase: am I not committed to acting courageoulsy, to be as honest as I can, am I not dedicated to helping others ? Am I not self-sworn to face adversity and transform myself and grow in wisdom ?
Doesn’t all this qualify as knight-material ?
Do I need to be good with a sword to be all that already ?